NW tribes face threats from expanding oil and gas projects

Eric Tegethoff
Washington News Service

SEATTLE — In 2017, Native tribes have been at the forefront of opposition against expanding oil and gas transport in the Northwest.

They say the latest threat to the environment and their way of life is the Trans Mountain Pipeline through British Columbia — and Houston-based Kinder Morgan recently got approval from the Canadian government to expand it.

That would mean Trans Mountain would transport more oil than either the Dakota Access or Keystone XL pipelines, and could increase tanker traffic by seven times in the Straight of Juan de Fuca.

“It’s in the form of coal,” says Jewell James, co-coordinator of the Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office for the Lummi Nation.

“It’s in the form of tar sands oil from the Alberta tar sands. It’s Bakken oil. It’s natural gas. All of it is focusing on the Pacific Northwest as the shortest route out of the country.”

Extraction projects from the Alberta tar sands to the Bakken Formation in North Dakota use the Northwest as a passageway to Asian markets.

James says the Lummi Nation and First Nations in Canada are now considering their next moves to stop expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Native tribes have been on the front lines against the B.C. pipeline, as well as other oil and gas projects that could potentially harm the environment.

Yet James maintains Native opposition doesn’t carry the weight it should in these discussions, or in other projects that threaten indigenous land.

He says that’s been the case for a long time for tribes in the Northwest.

“It’s the same old story,” he states. “It’s been happening for 200 years for Native Americans.

“We’re still here. We’ll continue our battle to exist. We’ll continue to assert our rights, as nations and as a people.”

James says Native American tribes in the United States, and the First Nations in Canada, aren’t alone in their concern for the environment.

“Our people need to be able to voice our concern for the quality of life here in the Pacific Northwest,” he states. “We need our voices heard, but we also need the voices of everybody else around us.

“People around us have to stand up and protect the environment their children live in.”

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